Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What If Someone Preached a Sermon Using Only Questions?

What if someone preached a sermon using only questions?

Do you think it would work?


Would people listen?

Is it possible that some might find it offensive?

Can truth be communicated via interrogation?

What would socrates say?

Do people engage more with questions or propositions?

Is it possible to craft questions which stimulate deep contemplation?

What if the questions helped to unpack the text?

Don't you think a well-written question can lead to truth discovery?

What if some of the questions demanded immediate contemplation?

What if some of them called for discussions?

Could you ask the people to talk to each other about the answer?

Would you ask the person sitting next to you right now what their opinion is?

Could you build in time for contemplation and discussion?

Do you think some people might be so struck by one question that they might not be able to shake it?

What would a question like that look like?

Is it better to confront someone's shortcomings with a question or an accusation?

Isn't that the point of a sermon?

Shouldn't a preacher always be confronting our shortcomings?

Does new knowledge mean anything without life-change?

Are people willing to change their lives if they don't see any problems?

How can a sermon point out someone's problems?

Would it help to force them to think about themselves?

Would it be better to have them think of themselves in light of the text?

Could a question help them do that?

Don't you think this would get tiresome after 40 minutes?

Who said a sermon has to be 40 minutes long?

Did Jesus ever ask questions?

Would this work?

What do you think?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Missional Church

"Missional" was a popular word ten years ago. I think it still has legs.

The essence of the missional church is that it invests itself outside the walls of the building and apart from the Sunday morning gathering.

At the heart of the missional church is a decision to take Christ seriously when he said, "AS YOU ARE GOING, make disciples." Missional churches have decided not to rephrase Matthew 28 to say, "As they come to you, make them disciples"; but rather to assume Jesus meant what He said, and that we are to be in the business of making disciples 24/7 in every aspect of our lives, not just when we gather.


Like any good thing, missional living and churching can get out of balance. I see at least a few potential dangers for the missional church:

In an effort to be "in the world", there is a constant temptation to become indistinguishable from the world. John, in his first epistle, draws thick lines between the lifestyle of the children of God and the lifestyle of the world. One must be careful that in pursuit of relevance, the true distinctives of the church are not lost. Because a part of missional living requires loving the people in the world, particularly those who are "hard to love", it can be easy to get so caught up in social causes that the gospel is lost.

It is right, appropriate, and incumbent on the church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and comfort the oppressed. However , it would be better for those people to enter the kingdom hungry, naked, and captive than for them to be full, clothed, and free but miss the kingdom.

The other side of this coin is that the church, in an effort to bring change to the world, can become so politically entrenched that the lines between God's kingdom and the political parties become impossible to see (this happens on both sides!). The church must take great care as it seeks to enact the mission of Jesus, that it not lose the Gospel of Jesus!

I believe the template for missional living is found in 1 Peter 2:11:
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The missional church:

  • Understands its identity -- Aliens and Strangers
  • Embrace its location -- in the world
  • Lives Appropriately -- abstain from sinful desires
  • For the sake of the Kingdom -- they may...glorify God on the day he visits us.

The key is that we abstain from sin, not the world. That is the heart of missional living.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Commandment One: Nothing Shall Compare To Me

Do you remember when Sinead O'Connor sang "Nothing Compares To You"? It was a haunting song about the gaping hole left by a lost love. Her video portrayed the numbness one often feels after going through a horrible loss.


Our hurt is greatest when we lose the thing we love the most.

When the Tigers lost the World Series in 2006 and 2012, I felt sadness and loss but I didn't feel numb.

When my daughter played her last high school volleyball game and my son played his last high school soccer game, I grieved the end of a wonderful phase of life. I felt a little numb for a few days.

When I've lost friendships I thought were lifelong relationships, I felt the pain for a long time (some pain doesn't ever fully leave).

This morning I lost my keys. I felt panic, but no pain or sorrow.

The value with which we hold anything is reflected in the pain we feel when that thing is lost.


Does it pain you when you go a week without praying? Does it leave you numb to be away from Scripture for several days. Is there a gaping hole in your heart when you've spent no time revelling in God's love for you?

You see where I'm going don't you.

It's hard to say God is first or central in my life if I don't miss Him when I'm away from Him (I didn't say "when He's gone" because He never is). It's hard to claim I value my relationship with Him if I never make investments in that relationship. It's hard to say I have no other gods before Him if my pain when losing anything else supersedes the pain of missing Him.

Our gods are whatever objects, pursuits or people we believe have the power to sustain us. If the quality of my life is dependent on the win-loss record of my favorite team, they are my god. If my ability to live with joy is dependent on what anyone else does  (even my family), they are my god. If I locate my self-worth in any pursuit, that has become my god.

To have no other gods before Him means I find my everything in Him. I am valuable, not because of my successes but because of His love for me. I am joyful, not because of my circumstances but because of His calling. I am content, not because I have what I want but because I want what He has provided.

To have no other gods before Him means I immerse myself in Him. I preach His Word to myself to remind me of His love, grace, mercy, care, promises and goodness. I engage His Word so I might be changed as I follow His will and way in each step of my life. My waking hours are an ongoing conversation of prayer as I ask for guidance, express my gratitude and frustrations and as I watch and listen for His answers.

What is the one thing in your life to which nothing else compares? That is your G(g)od.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What do Roy Moore, Al Franken, John Conyers and Donald Trump all have in common?

I don't know Roy Moore personally.

I don't know Al Franken personally.

I don't know John Conyers personally.

I don't know Donald Trump personally.

I've never spoken to any of them. I've never been in the same room as any of them. As far as I know, I don't know anyone who knows any of them. Yet, I know a few things about each of them.


They each have people they love. They likely treat those people kindly most of the time. They are probably generous to those people. They certainly would not wish harm on anyone they love nor would they intentionally do anything to bring harm on those they love.

They each have contributed positively to the lives of people around them.

At their best, their words have likely been more gracious than some of the words we have all spoken today. At their best, their actions have likely been kinder than some of our actions today.

They are all created in the image of God.

They are all loved by God.

Jesus went to the cross for each of them.

That's all I have to say about that this morning.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

4 Critical Elements of Effective Confession

After David's sin with Bathsheba, his friend Nathan confronted him. When David realized the depth of what he had done, we are told that he confessed his sin to Nathan and to the LORD. As he often did, David then turned to his moleskine? to journal his thoughts.

We call David's moleskine the book of Psalms and this particular journal entry is most likely Psalm 51. You can see the Psalm in its entirety at the end of this post, but consider now what it can teach us about how to confess our sins to God:

Ask for Mercy

David wrote, "Have mercy on me, O God..." When we approach God, we should never carry a spirit of entitlement and we should never make demands. We should recognize that we are unworthy of his love and compassions and we are unable to cleanse ourselves.

Those who ask for mercy are those who have realized they need help. Only God can provide us with the righteousness we need, apart from Him and his purification, we are broken and lost souls. Thus we ask for mercy.

Acknowledge your sin

David wrote, "I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." He made no excuses, he gave no reasons, he didn't try to rationalize his actions. He simply acknowledged that he had failed. Three words which are very difficult to speak are words we must all learn to say. "I was wrong."

I heard it once said that a heartfelt confession does not say, "I broke God's rules" but rather says, "I broke God's heart." Our sin has devastated God's creation and driven a wedge between our heart and God's. Only when we assume full responsibility for our sin can the healing process begin.

Accept purification

David wrote, "Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." Sin leaves a deep stain on our soul that we cannot get clean, but God washes us with the blood of Christ which purifies us from all unrighteousness.

Hyssop is a sponge like plant that was often used in the ancient world for bathing and cleaning. At the Passover, a hyssop plant was used to spread lamb's blood on the door posts so that the Death Angel would "pass over" the homes of God's people. Later, during tabernacle sacrifices, hyssop was used to sprinkle blood on the alter as a sign of confession and repentance. Moses' law also instructed Israelites to use a hyssop plant in some of the ceremonial cleansing ceremonies. Centuries later, a hyssop plant was used in one more ceremony. On the cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." His executioners provided him a hyssop plant which had been dipped in wine and vinegar.

When David said, "cleanse me with hyssop" he was undoubtedly looking back to Moses' law and the passover, but he was also unwittingly pointing ahead to the work of Jesus on the cross. Because of Jesus, 1 John 1:9 is true, "If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to CLEANSE US from all unrighteousness."

Assume a new direction

David wrote, "Create in me a pure heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me." David assumed that his life post-confession would be very different than his life pre-temptation.

Once God cleansed him, his heart would be pure. He would learn to love what God loves and to love how God loves. He would desire and pursue  God's priorities instead of his own.

Once God cleansed him, his spirit would be right. He would be content with God's provision. He would find hope and joy in the promises of God rather than the offerings of the world.

True confession doesn't happen because we get caught. True confession happens because we want to change. When we acknowledge our sin and accept God's purification, our life will take a new, and far better direction.


Read the entire Psalm below:


Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

How a Simple Typo Deepened My Understanding and Changed My Perspective

I meant to type the word "trial", but instead I typed "trail". 

As I looked at my mistake I thought of James 1:2-4 as descriptive of a journey. The final destination is perfection and completeness (Christlikeness). Before we reach that destination, we must journey through the forest of steadfastness, learning how to be faithful and becoming more impressed by future glories than present suffering. 


Of course the TRAIL on which we walk through and to these destinations is named "TRIALS".

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Please Pray for My Friend

In 1984 the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, the Apple Computer replaced the Macintosh personal computer, Ronald Reagan was re-elected as president and my family moved to Muskegon, Michigan.
The first time we walked through the doors of the new church, a kind lady introduced herself to me and said, "My son is 'David' also. Let me introduce you to him." She walked me to the basement of the church where her son was already in Sunday School class and introduced me to one of my lifelong friends.
Since that moment, I have always been "David" because he has always been "Dave". It's been only been 33 years, but it feels like he's been with me through every part of my life.
He was my vice president when we ran against Matt and Jack in the mock election. We bunked together with Brian at Lake Ann. We threw marbles down the stairs and spit-wads at the chalkboard in middle school. While I patrolled the midfield throughout high school soccer, he played whichever wing was closest to the crowd side. In basketball, he padded his rebound stats by always missing the first shot (effectively clearing my assist) and making the second.
In college, we won intramural championships together, participated in the Lawlor riots, built a coal mine and a jurassic world in our suite, attended Church of the Inner Spring and when he got a deer under questionable circumstances... well, I know nothing about that.
I watched him beat cancer and then re-find the love of his life. I had the incredible privilege of performing the ceremony uniting him to Amy. I've watched him become an amazing father to his miracle little girl.
Dave is a friend after God's own heart. He is kind and caring to everyone he meets. He is the epitome of loyalty, choosing always to believe the best in me even when he didn't have to and it didn't benefit him.
Tomorrow my friend Dave will go under the doctor's knife.
Every week, I spend a great deal of time reading and praying over the requests of hundreds of my friends. My heart is always moved by what others are dealing with. If it's possible I'm going to be praying harder tomorrow. Will you pray with me for my friend?